Practice

Practice

Hey now, hey now. Don’t dream it’s over. ~ Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House

It’s cherry season.

I know this because beautiful bags of big white cherries have appeared, front and center, at all the markets, and for some reason this season I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I first noticed the cherries when I was visiting my son a few weeks ago. He had us over for brunch, and because I can’t ever show up anywhere empty-handed, I brought a cactus plant from the local market, along with a bag of cherries that I had noticed near the register. He set the cactus on the sill in the sun, and, when the eggs were done, we sat down to a feast with a bowl of cherries as our centerpiece.  

The next week I was visiting again, and more cherries appeared. This time they were waiting for me in my daughter’s refrigerator, a welcome sight when I arrived at midnight! I had a few before I went to bed and then again late the next night, when we sat down to a bowl of them in front of the television.

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Collision

Collision

“Got my doubts about it, oh but I try, oh make it work with tears in my eyes.” ~ Some Peace of Mind, Van Morrison

Cow Face is a funny name for a pose.


We cross our legs at the knees and press our sitting bones down on the mat. I’m not sure how this resembles a cow’s face, and I’ve never thought to ask.

Most of the English names for the yoga poses make sense to me. They have purpose: Chair pose. Side Angle. Handstand. They have power: Warrior One. Warrior Two. They have beauty: Half Moon. Crescent Lunge. 

But where is the grace in a name like Cow Face? 

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Rise

Rise

Come with me. Leave yesterday behind and take a giant step outside your mind.” ~ Take a Giant Step, The Monkees

It’s been a long day.

I arrive home from work and grab a quick bite and am about to go upstairs to my room in order to change into my yoga clothes for my evening practice.

But to leave the kitchen and get to the steps, I have to pass the most comfortable chair in the house. It’s big and soft and green, and it fits me perfectly. I often sit with my feet propped up on its matching hassock, or, more often, I sit sideways with my shoulders propped up on one side and my legs hanging over the other.

Needless to say, I don’t quite make it to the steps. I sit down in the chair instead and cover myself with a quilt, thinking I still have a few minutes to watch a little television.

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Balance

Balance

"There will be an answer. Let it be.”     ~ Let It Be, The Beatles

I’m on my way to yoga. It’s the middle of winter, but I’m dressed as if it were spring!

The temperatures outside are a little out of whack, and, aside from the politics of the day, it’s all anyone seems to be talking about. As a matter of fact, just as soon as the Obamas left town the weather seems to have gone upside down! With their departure came a major shift in the atmosphere, and ever since then the heavens above have been a reflection of the chaos down here.  

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Time

Time

This time last year doesn’t seem so long ago.

We were deep in the winter of mid-February, and I was wearing everything possible: my jacket and scarf, my ear wraps and gloves, my leg warmers and tall winter boots. I had arrived with my suitcase in tow at my daughter’s work show to help her manage some overflow. 

We worked all day and into the early evening, and then we made our way to meet her other half and my son for dinner.

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Thought

Thought

Well it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe ~ Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan

I started practicing yoga for my body, but I think it’s also been helping my brain.

I wish I had the kind of brain that didn’t think so much, but that’s a thought that’s hard to fathom. I’m jealous of the people who don’t know how to dwell.

At yoga there is no time to dwell, and that’s a good thing. On the mat there just is no room in my head for anything other than what the instructor has said. We are always moving, even when we are still, and if I'm not paying close attention, then I’ll find myself moving in the wrong direction.

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The Basement

The Basement

’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed. ~ The Monster, Eminem featuring Rihanna

I used to be afraid of the basement.

When I was little, we had a beautiful basement. Its paneled walls enclosed a living room, a toy room, game tables and even a grand piano. A sliding glass door opened onto a patio and into a big backyard.

As children during the day we’d happily play for hours down there, but at night it was a different story. I was convinced that Dracula and Frankenstein had set up home under the basement steps and in the back toy room, too. Inevitably, we’d leave something behind, and in the evenings I’d be sent to retrieve whatever it was. I remember many times peering fearfully down the stairs while building up my courage for a frantic dash down and back.

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Goodness

Goodness

I’ve had so much energy these days that I don’t know what to do with myself.

And so I’m doing what I know to do when I don’t know what to do. I’m practicing lots of yoga.

Each night I’m on my mat, trying to expend the energy that I’ve captured in my body. It’s not that I’m not happy to have it; it’s just that it needs someplace to go. Who knows how it got there, but I think it happens while I’m sleeping. I seem to wake up with it, sometimes even in the middle of the night!

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Agony

Agony

This is agony, but it’s still a thrill for me. ~ Agony, Paloma Faith

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

These are the words of the great poet and storyteller, Maya Angelou. I’m guessing she knew a thing or two about agony, because she spent her lifetime writing her stories.

By comparison, I’ve only spent about a moment of mine. And that’s because, before yoga, I didn’t even know I had any stories inside of me, much less any kind of agony.

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Tikkun

Tikkun

“I’m here, and I’m on the mend, my friend.” ~ On the Mend, Foo Fighters

For almost a year, I’d put off getting my elbow checked out. I was afraid that if I did, I’d be told to stop practicing yoga. But what had started out as a dull ache had turned into a sharp pain, and so I set up the appointment.

I was diagnosed with tennis elbow, which for me these days is writer’s elbow. Who knew that writing could hurt? But apparently I had some microscopic tears that only rest could heal.

Why I needed someone to tell me that part of me was hurt and needed rest, I really couldn’t say. But my plan to dismiss the ache hadn’t turned out so great. Of course I was glad for the X-ray and to know that nothing was broken. Still, it wasn’t lost on me that I’d ignored this signal from my body.

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Loss

Loss

“Limitless undying love, which shines around me like a million suns, it calls me, on and on, across the universe.” ~ Across the Universe, The Beatles

Last night at yoga we did a few stretches before we were called to the tops of our mats for the start of practice. Once there, the instructor asked us to set an intention.

I used to set an intention by making a wish, like a private prayer. But I’d struggle to come up with something quickly, and I couldn’t always get it done. So I started to simplify things, and now I just conjure up an image, usually one of someone I love, and then I wait to see what comes to mind.

Last night the image was my son, decked out for the swim portion of the New York City Triathlon. He was in his wet suit, wearing goggles and a bathing cap, mid-air in a feet-first jump into the Hudson River!

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Hunger

Hunger

“Bring all the lovers to the fold, ‘cause no one is gonna lose their soul.” ~ Love Is My Religion, Ziggy Marley

We’ve been studying the soul.

We’ve been reading books and taking classes and looking for one soul, in particular. He belonged to my daughter and left without warning, leaving us all at a loss. He was the one who fed her soul, so that she was never hungry, and now her plate is empty, and she has no appetite.

He was a loving young man who knew that his body could feed his soul. He was a runner and a biker who had completed marathons and bike races. He loved to dance and had just started practicing yoga. He often worked out with my son, and together they had talked about entering a triathlon.

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Space

Space

“I’ll rise up, in spite of the ache. I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” ~ Rise Up, Andra Day

My daughter had a tragic loss that's left a gaping space. And so I’m spending time beside her, as she struggles to find her place.

In yoga, I hear so much about space. We’re supposed to make space, clear space and even hold space. When I first started practicing, I didn’t understand. But soon the practice grabbed a hold of me, and, like a key, it opened up a space inside. And it’s in this space where all my incremental shifts take place.

My daughter’s world has shifted. She’s lost her love. Without warning, the man who was always there was suddenly nowhere. And even though she knows he’s gone, she can’t help but try to find him. She searches for him and yearns for him and wants to talk to him.

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Soul

Soul

But where are you now? Where are you now? ~ Where Are You Now, Mumford and Sons

It’s said that our souls are too big for our bodies.

This mystical fact has its roots in many ancient religions and it’s believed by many today.

It’s almost a relief to be one of the believers, because then, on the days when we wonder if we’re too small to matter, we can remember that we’re actually so big that we don’t even fit inside ourselves.

This idea helps in times of grief, and so it’s helping us now because we are grieving. We’re feeling so small because our questions are so big. They hardly fit inside our brains. Whereas before we used to wonder what to wear or where to go, we now ponder questions as big as our souls.

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Protect Your Heart

Protect Your Heart

Baby if you hold me, then all of this will go away.” ~ Budapest, George Ezra

I looked at my social media the other day and scrolled through more slogans than I could count. My feeds were overflowing with advice on everything from how to be happy to how to find love to how to be loved.

I even walked through Brooklyn on my visit last week and stepped on some sidewalk art that told me to protect my heart.

It seems in every direction, people are looking for the right direction.

Some of us are lucky enough to give up the search. I think Jeff was one of these lucky ones. I think by the time he met Alexandra, this young man had already grown into himself, and I think in her he found what he was searching for.

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Peace

Peace

For out on the edge of darkness there runs the peace train. ~ Peace Train, Cat Stevens

A new instructor had arrived on the scene, and instead of bowing with a Namaste, he put his hands in prayer with something new to say.

“Om Shanti. Peace. Peace. Peace.”

After several years of practice I was surprised not to have heard these words before! In fact, I could hardly hear them now, because he seemed to murmur them more so to himself than to the rest of us.

I wondered what he knew that I didn’t, and so when I got home I looked up the chant on the Internet.

I’d already learned about the word, Om. We say it all the time. It represents the universe, and it means everything. It’s all the colors and all the sounds and even all the moments in time.

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The Wall

The Wall

The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on … ~ Tangled Up In Blue, Bob Dylan

Less from me and more from you!

These were the words of the yoga instructor as we moved through our Sun B’s while we jumped back and forth in our vinyasas. She was asking us to find our bandhas, or locks, and to look for our quiet landings.

I was looking for something else. I was looking for a way past a wall that had appeared in my practice. I was looking for the strength to tear it down.

I started getting annual physicals right before I found yoga. The doctor spoke with me about exercise and strength. Specifically, we talked about the strength of my bones.

She took one look at me and exclaimed, You must be careful!

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Polka Dots

Polka Dots

And here’s the hand my trusty friend, and gives a hand o’ thine! ~ Auld Lang Syne

It’s the holiday season, and it’s dark and cold. And on this night it’s rainy, too.

I pick up some sushi after work and gratefully arrive home, changing out of my clothes and warming up in a quick, hot bath. Then I go downstairs to turn on the television and pour a glass of wine, quickly deciding not to go to yoga, even though that’s been my usual spot on this night for the past few years.

I text my friend to let her know I’ll be absent from my mat. I’m already tucked into another of my usual spots, the space between the sofa and the coffee table. With so much seating in this room, I rarely take an actual seat. I’m a perfect fit in this cozy nook, and it’s often ideal for watching TV or eating a meal.

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Sound & Silence

Sound & Silence

Created in this image so God live[s] through us … only love, love, love can reboot us. ~~ Wake Up Everybody, Common, Melanie Fiona, John Legend, The Roots

I’ve written a lot about my love of power vinyasa and Rocket yoga, but I haven’t written too much about another kind of yoga I’ve only recently discovered. It’s called Jivamukti.

A Jivamukti instructor subbed our Rocket class, and I found myself with my fellow rocketeers stumbling over his opening chants. I’d never chanted before.

The instructor took us through all the familiar poses, but in a quieter and more deliberate way. His voice was soothing and so was his music. It was a practice that was intense yet gently settling, and I found it to be the perfect complement to the rest of my yoga regimen.

So I went looking for more.

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Shapes

Shapes

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, well it’s a hard, and it’s a hard. It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall. ~ A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Leon Russell

I love the rain. I love any kind of rain.

In fact, the other day after practice, the skies opened up in what I can only describe as a deluge. All the yogis hovered inside the door, waiting for the rain to let up. I wished everybody a good night and flowed right through them like a river into the ocean, eagerly heading out.

I was drenched by the time I reached my car and had to wrap myself in yoga towels for the ride home!

So when I saw that a fellow blogger had written a post titled, The Rain, I clicked on it in the same eager way as I had stepped out into that storm. I was anxious to see what she had to say about the rain.

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